Steffan Aquarone

Steff is a film producer and technology entrepreneur who speaks internationally on innovation, entrepreneurship and digital marketing

How much should a website cost?

A friend asked me this question today. I’ve often been on both sides of the table discussing the price of creative services. It’s a hard question to answer and I’ve usually been answering it in relation to the cost of producing films.

It might seem like the price you can pay for a website is a complete piece of string. On the one hand there are ‘out of the box’ products for as little as £500; on the other hand one of Venio’s clients is a digital and web agency that doesn’t take on web projects below £5,000 in value.

What you get for your money is just as much a piece of string. Birmingham City Council paid Capita over £2,000,000 for their website and it’s been widely felt by Birmingham’s digital community that nothing short of a boycott of council tax can compensate for what a naive, uninformed purchase this was given what they actually did for the money.

When you’re buying creative services you’re buying three things:

1. People’s time. This is really the only direct cost for suppliers. It has little to do with the number of pages on a website as nowadays websites are mostly CMS (content management system) driven anyway – so you’re creating the pages! You could spend weeks getting something done perfectly for your needs, and spend a fortune, or you could spend hours getting a web designer to simply adjust a free-to-use WordPress template that looks great already and has most of the functionality you need built in.

2. Creative input. This is a clear value-add that most one-man-bands can’t offer, but which most agencies / web companies market themselves on. You won’t get much of this, or it won’t be much good, if you’re paying less than a few thousand in my opinion, unless you’re lucky to know a really good one man band who really can think, advise, design and build themselves.

3. The reputation of the company and how they charge. Hence starting prices of £5K for some, £15K for others, or out of the box products for £500 from elsewhere.

My advice?

1. Work out how much you want / can afford to spend. It’s really unhelpful for digital companies when people say “I don’t know how much I want to spend” or “tell me what I need and I’ll see if I can afford it” as they won’t know if they can ever be a fit, or whether the pitch is worth investing in.

2. Look around on the web for local companies (simply because it’s easier to work with someone local) whose work you like the look and feel of. Few agencies are big enough to have so many different design teams that they don’t have a ‘house style’ whether deliberate or accidental.

3. Write a one-page brief, send it to the companies you like along with your budget and see who comes back. It’s tough out there – you might find a good company whose work you like who’ll do a great job for £2,000 just because they need the work.

Filed under: selling creative, , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Ed B says:

    There’s an interesting point about the silly dance that service providers and their clients do at the enquiry stage here.

    I would estimate that no more than 20% of clients who say things like “I don’t know how much I want to spend” or “tell me what I need and I’ll see if I can afford it” are telling the truth. The rest are probably under the impression that as soon as a number is mentioned by either party some game has been lost.

    In an ideal world, a client would always reveal their budget upfront (ie pre-pitch) and in return the service-provider would adopt the same level of accountability now required of public sector organisations – ie justifying every penny spent of that budget. Its no more time consuming – hopefully most companies account at this level internally anyway.

    Sadly though, I imagine the reason such information is not shared is that the service provider simply can’t reasonably justify expense on a line-by-line basis. I certainly don’t think Capita would be able to without raising eyebrows at BCC, for example.

    In fact, I suspect a lot of less salubrious (dare I say bigger) agencies employ people to do the ‘we don’t know what we want to spend’ dance with their suppliers early and dress up (or talk down) expenditure information for their clients later. Anyone like to take a stab at the job titles that might involve such ‘value adding’ tasks…?

    Cynical? Moi?

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